Community Message: October 3, 2017
President Williams writes to the Muhlenberg community
To the Muhlenberg Campus Community:
The Muhlenberg College Center for Ethics seeks to develop our capacities for ethical reflection, moral leadership and responsible action by engaging community members in scholarly dialogue, intellectual analysis and self-examination about contested ethical issues.
Over the last few days, we have encountered both strong support and strong condemnation of a speaker, Janaya Khan, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Canada, who spoke on campus yesterday evening as part of the Center for Ethics semester programming.
I am deeply disturbed to learn that several of these conversations have devolved into heated and disrespectful exchanges on social media, including the College’s Facebook page, and through flyers distributed anonymously around campus today.
Muhlenberg College is committed to the support and promotion of free speech. We aim to develop independent critical thinkers with a zest for reasoned and civil debate and who are equipped with ethical and civic values. Thoughtful and respectful dialogue is at the core of our mission as a liberal arts institution, and we also realize that the conversations started on our campus—including conversations from inside and outside the members of our community—can have a profound impact on individuals.
Contrary to a contention in one of the most troubling postings on social media, Black Lives Matter is not a hate group. The speaker at last night’s event facilitated a thoughtful conversation on issues of inequity and social justice with a large and diverse audience consisting of students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members. The speaker solicited questions and comments from community members and did so in a respectful manner.
As I have repeated on numerous occasions, racial hatred has no place at Muhlenberg College. We condemn any attacks on individuals or groups of people for any reason, and this affirmation stands at the core of our College mission, our values and our statement on diversity.
Differences of opinion are welcome and expected, but these opinions and beliefs are subject to the responsibilities of our community members as engaged citizens. As such, we have existing policies that help us to engage in ways that are civil and consistent with our values.
One of these policies requires that we share these points of view in ways that allow for others to engage around the issue, and not anonymously through flyers or other media that inhibit dialog. Accordingly, consistent with our policies, I have asked staff to remove the anonymous flyers from campus. At the same time, I invite all members of our community to participate in open, civil and reasoned debate about this or any other issue. If you are interested in learning more about how you might do this, please contact the Provost’s Office or the Dean of Students Office.
Furthermore, I invite all members of our community to attend Standing in Solidarity, held tomorrow (Wednesday) at 12:15 pm on the College Green, near Victor’s Lament, to discuss this or other concerns. This is a gathering for anyone concerned about global, national and local communities. It includes silence, reflection and a chance to commit to work for justice and equity and is hosted by Multicultural Life and Religious Life.Sincerely,
John I. Williams, Jr